We’ve seen this all before.
Whether it’s Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, Cody Rhodes and Goldust, or any other full-time superstar talent, the roster works hard throughout the year. Fans rally behind their act. They might even get title shots or hold title belts (momentarily or otherwise). Then Wrestlemania season approaches.
Out of nowhere rides in the big returning celebrity from WWE’s past. The past two Wrestlemanias, it has been The Rock coming back to face John Cena in the main event. This year, it’s the returning Dave Batista, who earned a shot at the WWE Champion by winning Royal Rumble. While Rock was generally well-received, Dave Batista was not.
I have a theory after having this week to think about it as to why Batista’s return fell flat.
First, I think WWE screwed up. Out of nowhere in December, it became public knowledge that Batista was going to be at a live event in Las Vegas. That was good news for ticket buyers in Las Vegas – but it tipped WWE’s hand. So needless to say, that took some energy away from his return because WWE ends up needing to advertise Batista’s return. If he comes out unadvertised in Pittsburgh, that return is much hotter.
Next, you all heard me talk about how Pittsburgh booed Batista out of the building at the Rumble. That ties back to my opening point. Guys like Bryan, Punk, and the Rhodes brothers work hard all year long. Daniel Bryan is the hottest guy in the company right now and the one many believed should have won the Rumble. Even CM Punk left the company (at least at the moment) over that sentiment.
Batista came in and took over the spot that a guy who has worked his ass off to get over should have. That didn’t exactly endear him to many wrestling fans, and created the boo-bird situation in Pittsburgh.
Also, it’s worth comparing the returns of The Rock and Batista in terms of presence and ability. When Rock came back, he still showed the charisma that he had in his early years. He looked the part, he dressed the part. His in-ring work was closer to the standard he had set through the years. He kept up with CM Punk fairly well, although he was winded at times.
Batista came out dressed in skinny jeans and a jacket that fits Justin Bieber. In the Royal Rumble, Batista was visibly winded.
Think about that for a moment. Batista was in a battle royale, a punch-kick fest, and got winded. I never worked in the ring, but I can imagine that like any sport working in the ring in real time is vastly different than training for it. But none the less, that had to be embarrassing.
Overall, Batista just didn’t have the same presence he had when he left four years ago. He has lost weight and size for his MMA fight, which should have helped his endurance but it didn’t so it made him seem out of shape. The visual of skinny jeans and the Bieber-esque jacket came off more heelish than face. And his normally average mic skills were just not present.
Perhaps all of these things will change as Batista adapts to being back in WWE. But at least in the first week, all of the presence and skill that The Rock showed right out of the gate has been lacking in Batista.
Finally, the projected match that Batista will end up working just doesn’t excite many people. From all appearances, Randy Orton will retain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and head to Wrestlemania with the title. Batista will face him there.
At the Royal Rumble, we all know what happened. Randy Orton got rained on with boos and chants. Orton’s style is not exciting to fans in general, though he can work. Now you’re coupling him up with a guy in Batista that got easily winded in the Rumble, and remains untested in the ring in a singles affair since his return.
This has all the makings of a repeat of Goldberg/Lesnar at Wrestlemania 20 all over again. In that match, both Lesnar and Goldberg mailed it in, as they were leaving. Madison Square Garden let them know about it and booed them out of the building.
Fans from all over the world come to Wrestlemania and they expect a good show. They will be the first to let talent know if they’re not living up to expectation. And at least right now, they aren’t thrilled with the prospect of Orton vs. Batista and they’re letting us know that.
I fully understand WWE wanting to bring in talent for Wrestlemania. It provides a boost to the card, it gives casual fans a sense of nostalgia and excitement over a name they recognize. But in the case of the returning Batista, he and WWE dropped the ball. As a result, it left us with a star’s return that so far is falling far short of the mark.